"For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth." ~ Deuteronomy14:2

Friday, December 30, 2011

Raising the Standard: Kindness Is Returning Good For Evil

"Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good." ~ Romans 12:20-21
Living Lessons on Kindness:
The kindness of returning good for evil is totally opposite to our natural inclinations. Therefore, this type of kindness can only be carried out by an act of faith in God's Word. Unexpected rewards are waiting for a person who practices it. Such was the case when a rival used every opportunity to belittle and ridicule one who was envied. The anguish and personal distress that this continual attack produced forced the victim to make an amazing vow that brought great benefit to many people including the rival.
The most painful enemies are usually those who were closest to u. Their unexpected attacks are often allowed by God to bring us to the place of crying out to Him. Who greatly benefited God's people by using a difficult family conflict as motivation to make a significant covenant with the Lord? Hannah.
How Is Returning Good for Evil Illustrated in Scripture?
The contrasting lives of two people are woven together into one of the most unique and significant accounts in Scripture. Both of them knew the Lord and wanted to please Him. Both of them had painful relationships within their own families. Each was being mocked and tormented day after day and year after year. In each family God desired to do a special work through the children. But that would require both of these individuals cry out to God and give to Him that which they cherished the most. At this point the responses and results in the lives of these two individuals became remarkably different. One day the younger of the two traveled to the city of the older. Both of them met for the first time in the house of the Lord. It was here that the younger set the example that the older should have followed. With deep agony of soul this young victim of continual reviling silently cried out to the Lord and then entered into a vow that was to have great significance in the days to come. The sincerity of this act of worship was misunderstood by the older individual and further abuse came in the form of a false accusation. However, the younger gave a kind response and gained the assurance that God had heard her prayer. Several years later, the younger was able to return good for the older's insulting remark. The younger brought a very special gift to the older. That gift became a continual encouragement to him, but also a constant reminder that he should follow the younger's example. he refused to do so. As a result, the nation under his spiritual leadership suffered a disastrous military defeat, and the enemy captured the ark of God's glory. Through that battle the sons whom he should have consecrated to God were killed, and he fell to his death. The example he had refused to follow was that of Hannah, a young wife, who after years of torment from a jealous and competing wife, cried out to the Lord for a son. The son that God gave became her gift back to the Lord. Her son, Samuel, served Eli, the high priest who had falsely accused her of being drunk when she prayed in anguish for a son. Samuel also became a great gift to the nation of Israel. He restored the spiritual strength of the people and led the armies to victory. He was his mother's means of returning good for evil, and God crowned his ministry by returning to the nation the treasured ark of His glory. [From 1 Samuel 1-6]
What Was the Full Significance of Hanna's Vow?
Hannah desperately desired a son. She knew that the "Lord of Hosts" who controlled the heavenly powers could also take away her barrenness. She asked that He look on her, remember her, and give her a son. If God granted her request, Hannah promised two things in return. "...I will give him unto the Lord all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head." (1 Samuel 1:11). As a Levite, Hannah's son would be required to serve periodically at the tabernacle. But Hannah was committing her son to serve for his entire life. She second part of her promise was the Nazarite vow. This commitment included totally abstaining from whine and all intoxicating drink, letting his hair grow, and avoiding defilement by corpses. (See Numbers 6.) The positive nature of these prohibitions lies in the special devotion and consecration to the Lord which they signify. Abstinence from intoxicating drink maintained clearness of mind and avoided the danger of sensual indulgences which hinder communication with God. Long hair identified the Nazarite as one particularly set apart from the affairs of life and separated to the work of God. Avoiding contact with the dead symbolized purity from moral defilement and complete dedication to the living God. Such devotion and commitment would be required from Hannah's son, who was to perform such an important function in the nation.
Why Was Eli so Quick to Accuse Hannah?
The high priest was probably trying to prevent improper or disrespectful activity in the vicinity of the tabernacle. When He observed Hannah moving her lips without speaking aloud, he assumed the worst and accused her of drunkenness. It is probable that Eli had seen drunken people in the tabernacle area, especially during the annual feasts. What had been intended as a time of worship celebration, and joy had degenerated into occasions for overindulgence and sensuality. Eli's own sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were guilty in this area. (See 1 Samuel 2:13-16, 22.) Eli acknowledged his mistake, however, when Hannah explained her situation. "Then Eli answered and said, Go in peace; and the God of Israel grant thee thy petition that thou hast asked of him" (1 Samuel 1:17).
What Was Hannah's Real Need?
Hannah was anxious, grieved, and bitter in spirit. Elkanah believed that Hannah needed to know how much he loved and appreciated her. (See 1 Samuel 1:8.) Peninnah felt that her rival was loved too much and needed to be humbled. (See 1 Samuel 1:4-6.) Eli thought that she had had too much to drink. (See 1 Samuel 1:14.) Hannah believed that the solution was a son. (See 1 Samuel 1:11.) What proved to be the most joyful and satisfying event in her life, however, was not receiving the gift of a son, but giving him back to the Lord. It was on the occasion of bringing Samuel back to the tabernacle that Hannah's heart was bursting with praise and adoration. She was as full of joy as she had been of grief. (See 1 Samuel 1:1-10.) Hannah's true need was for something of worth to Give to God. Her real joy came not from receiving but from giving.
Illustrated in the World of Nature:
Pelicans are among the largest birds in the world. Their body length, including the bill, may extend four to six feet. Their wing spread can be from five to ten feet, and an individual bird can weigh from six to twenty-five pounds. There are seven species of pelicans, the most widely known being the brown pelican of the Atlantic, Gulf, and the Pacific coasts. The only food that the brown pelican eats is fish. After World War I, Gulf fishermen complained that pelicans were eating too many fish and reducing the size of their catch. Studies have shown that the pelican eats fish that have little, if any commercial value.
How Is Returning Good for Evil Illustrated in the World of Nature?
In a desolate marshy inlet, a three day watch was coming to an end. Both feet of a huge waterfowl were cupped around two eggs which he had been keeping warm. When his mate arrived, he stepped off the nest, stretched out his seven foot wings, and climbed into the morning breeze. For three days he had not eaten; now he was able to take care of his hunger by using his God-given equipment to catch fish. He flew to an altitude of seventy feet; there he spotted a fish just below the surface of the water. The giant bird wheeled in flight and began to dive. With wings and legs outstretched, he looked very awkward as he descended. The awkwardness was intensified as he twisted his body; yet he always kept his eyes fixed on the target. Then, less than a foot above the water, he quickly folded back his wings, stretched his feet beneath his tail, thrust his neck forward, and parted the waters with a mighty splash. Beneath the surface he opened his long bill, and his pouch quickly filled with two and a half gallons of water, plus his fish. The skin of his pouch was stretched so tightly that the blood vessels could be seen. He bobbed to the surface and began to drain water from his pouch, being careful to contain the fish. Just then a screaming gull flew down and landed on the head of this huge bird. The gull looked small by comparison. The crafty gull had been waiting for just this moment. It hoped back and forth to keep its balance and slowly worked its way onto the long bill while his host finished draining the salt water from his pouch. Then, in one quick, bold move the thieving sea gull grabbed the fish out of the pouch and with a quick toss of its head flipped it into the air and swallowed it. Then it turned, stepped in the face of its provider, and flew into the air. With four quick beats the great bird lifted himself out of the water and followed the thief. As he reached an altitude of the gull, he again wheeled and dove. The gull screamed and darted aside, but the great bird's target was not the gull; he had spotted a school of fish. His second dive produced more fish. Once again the sea gull picked off one for itself. The patient provider swallowed the rest and flew back to its nest. By returning good for evil, the pelican was rewarded in at least two ways. First, he increased his fish catching skills. Second, he was prepared for the gentle and generous care of his own young. When they hatched, they would be picking fish out of his pouch for thee months!
The Characteristics of the Pelican in Scripture:
The pelican provides ample illustrations of Christ's relationship to the church and our work as Christians. Just as the male pelican selects the nesting site and then allows for a long courtship, so Christ is making preparations for the Church. "...I go to prepare a place for you" (John 14:2). The tender care the pelican gives its young is a picture not only of Christ's care of the Church, but of the nurture which parents must give to their children. (See Ephesians 6:4.) Just as the pelican could not have successful hatches without regular fasting, so Christ emphasized the importance of fasting for the success of Christians.
"...When ye fast...thy Father, with seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly" ~ Matthew 6:16, 18
The unusual abilities of the pelican to catch fish attracts birds that rob him. His response to them is an illustration of the patient kindness which Christians should have toward those who wrong them.
"Not rendering evil for evil... but contrariwise blessing..." ~ 1 Peter 3:9
The silent loneliness of the pelican in the wilderness marshes was referred to by David.
"I am like a pelican of the wilderness..." ~ Psalm 102:6
The bowing of pelican mates to each other at their nesting site is a picture of the honor that should exist between husband and wife. (See Ephesians 5:22-25.)

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